Sun 18 Dec 2011
Vaclav Havel died today, at the very time when the people in Eastern Europe celebrate 20 years since the empire of the Soviet Union fell apart. These are certainly not easy times, but there are very few people – I dare hope so at least – who regret the dismantling of Communism in Europe. And Havel, the playwright, the poet, the dissident, the first president of Czechoslovakia after it became free again was one of the people who made freedom and democracy in his country and in the Eastern Europe possible.
I envy the Czech people for many things and one of them is that their history of resistance to dictatorship 1n 1968 allowed them to transition to democracy in 1989 peacefully and in dignity, as no other nation in Eastern Europe could do better. This is due to people like Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel.
Great men speak better in their own words. Here are a few memorable quotes from what Havel wrote and said (source – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/V%C3%A1clav_Havel):
Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.
(Letter to the downthrown Czechoslovak Communist Party chairman Alexander Dubček (August 1969))
If every day a man takes orders in silence from an incompetent superior, if every day he solemnly performs ritual acts which he privately finds ridiculous, if he unhesitatingly gives answers to questionnaires which are contrary to his real opinions and is prepared to deny his own self in public, if he sees no difficulty in feigning sympathy or even affection where, in fact, he feels only indifference or aversion, it still does not mean that he has entirely lost the use of one of the basic human senses, namely, the sense of humiliation.
(Open letter to Dr. Gustáv Husák, Communist President (8 April 1975))
Despite all the political misery I am confronted with every day, it still is my profound conviction that the very essence of politics is not dirty; dirt is brought in only by wicked people. I admit that this is an area of human activity where the temptation to advance through unfair actions may be stronger than elsewhere, and which thus makes higher demands on human integrity. But it is not true at all that a politician cannot do without lying or intriguing. That is sheer nonsense, often spread by those who want to discourage people from taking an interest in public affairs.
Of course, in politics, just as anywhere else in life, it is impossible and it would not be sensible always to say everything bluntly. Yet that does not mean one has to lie. What is needed here are tact, instinct and good taste.
(International Herald Tribune (29 October 1991))